Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Eye on Iran: Trump Election Puts Iran Nuclear Deal on Shaky Ground

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Donald Trump's election as president raises the prospect the United States will pull out of the nuclear pact it signed last year with Iran, alienating Washington from its allies and potentially freeing Iran to act on its ambitions. Outgoing President Barack Obama's administration touted the deal, a legacy foreign policy achievement, as a way to suspend Tehran's suspected drive to develop atomic weapons. In return Obama, a Democrat, agreed to a lifting of most sanctions. The deal, harshly opposed by Republicans in Congress, was reached as a political commitment rather than a treaty ratified by lawmakers, making it vulnerable to a new U.S. president, such as Trump, who might disagree with its terms. A Republican, Trump ran for the White House opposing the deal but contradictory statements made it unclear how he would act. In an upset over Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump won on Tuesday and will succeed Obama on Jan. 20. A businessman-turned-politician who has never held public office, Trump called the nuclear pact a "disaster" and "the worst deal ever negotiated" during his campaign and said it could lead to a "nuclear holocaust." In a speech to the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC in March, Trump declared that his "Number-One priority" would be to "dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran."

Donald Trump's victory in the U.S. presidential election is likely to empower hardliners in Iran who are pushing for global isolation and discourage already wary foreign investors. Republican Trump said during the election campaign that he would abandon the nuclear deal reached between Tehran and six world powers in 2015 that curbed Iran's nuclear programme in return for the removal of international sanctions. His tough stance, in contrast to President Barack Obama's offer of an olive branch to Tehran, could serve the interests of hardliners in Iran. "If Trump adopts hostile policies towards Iran, this will empower hardliners in Iran," a senior Iranian official told Reuters on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of his comments. A second senior Iranian official said: "Trump's victory will unite Iran's hardliners and their supporters ... It means more political pressure at home and an aggressive regional policy." ... Some Western companies had been hoping Democrat Hillary Clinton would defeat Trump in the election because of concern over the fate of the nuclear deal. "Now with Trump's victory, even the European companies will be reluctant to invest in Iran ... in the best-case scenario they will adopt the policy of wait and see," said a senior Economy Ministry official. The official said this would "harm the credibility of Rouhani and his economic plans."

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said there was "no possibility" of its nuclear deal with world powers being overturned by US president-elect Donald Trump despite his threat to rip it up. "Iran's understanding in the nuclear deal was that the accord was not concluded with one country or government but was approved by a resolution of the UN Security Council and there is no possibility that it can be changed by a single government," Rouhani told his cabinet, according to state television... "The United States no longer has the capacity to create Iranophobia and to create a consensus against Iran," he said. "The constructive engagement policies of Iran towards the world, and the fact that international sanctions have been lifted, have placed the Iranian economy on a road where there is no possibility of going backwards."


Iran's foreign minister called Wednesday on US president-elect Donald Trump to stick to international agreements following his threats during the election campaign to tear up a nuclear deal with Tehran. "Every US president has to understand the realities of today's world. The most important thing is that the future US president stick to agreements, to engagements undertaken," Mohammad Javad Zarif said in Romania. Trump has vowed to rip up last year's deal with world powers which lifted international sanctions in return for curbs on Iran's nuclear programme.


Iran is hoping to secure more overseas investment after a consortium led by France's Total on Tuesday signed a $4.8bn deal to develop part of the giant South Pars gasfield - the first major energy agreement since the country's landmark nuclear accord. "This is an icebreaker and we shall see more multibillion-dollar oil and gas contracts with other companies including Russians and Europeans soon," Amir-Hossein Zamaninia, Iran's deputy oil minister for international affairs told the Financial Times. "The next agreement might be in a few weeks," he added, without giving further details... Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, Iran's oil minister, said at the signing ceremony that he was "thankful to Total for always being a pioneer and coming back to Iran at a difficult time again". He added: "I hope this will allay concerns of other companies so that they can enter Iran's market quickly." Some Iranian companies, notably those affiliated to the elite Revolutionary Guards, insist they are capable of developing oil and gasfields with domestic money and expertise. But the Iranian oil ministry, according to some officials, has been fighting hard to push the guards' affiliated companies away from big projects including South Pars. Mr Zanganeh lashed out at those who insist Iran has enough money and expertise to develop the oil and gas sectors. "Which money?" he asked. "There is no money."

The election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States will not have an impact on the investments of French oil and gas company Total in Iran, the firm's head of gas, renewables and power said on Wednesday. Philippe Sauquet told journalist on the sidelines of an energy summit in Paris that a heads of agreement signed by Total earlier this week would not be impacted by the Trump's election... "We have always said that we are interested in returning to Iran on condition that the investments that are proposed to us are sufficiently attractive and knowing that for us, it was out of the question to do anything that would contravene international rules," Sauquet told reporters. "The election that took place in the United States does not change anything," Sauquet said.

Wintershall, Germany's largest oil and gas company is looking to invest in Iran as the country opens up for foreign investment following decades of sanctions over its controversial nuclear enrichment programme. Mario Mehren, chairman of Wintershall said they signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran in April this year to look into certain assets but they are yet to bid for any project. "Iran is very interesting for us. There is a lot of onshore oil. We have not seen yet the commercial framework related to petroleum contracts," said Mehren addressing a press conference during Adipec

For all of Iran's attractions - breathtaking scenery and numerous World Heritage sites, among other things - there are plenty of downsides to vacationing in the Islamic republic. Alcohol is forbidden. There is very little night life, at least in public. All women, including visiting foreigners, are obliged to wear a head scarf. Then there are Iran's politics: its strident anti-Western stance; seemingly random arrests of people with dual citizenship; hundreds of executions every year; and a rather loose definition of human rights. None of that has changed, but suddenly Iran is a booming destination for Europeans seeking an adventurous vacation, particularly people from Spain, France and Scandinavia. Even tourism from the United States is picking up, industry insiders say... The number of Iranians offering beds and couches to crash on has mushroomed in recent years, to more than 36,000 from virtually nothing, the Couchsurfing website reports. No money is exchanged, just experiences. "It's a great way of showing the real Iran to foreigners," said Reza Memarsadeghi, 43, who studied philosophy in Vancouver, British Columbia, and returned to Iran to take care of his ailing father. Back in Tehran, he heard of Couchsurfing, and now, six years later, he is known as the Godfather of Couchsurfing, having hosted more than 1,000 foreigners in his parents' basement. "I've stopped counting, to be honest." ... In August, Mr. Memarsadeghi was arrested and charged with making "propaganda against the Islamic republic" for hosting Western men and unveiled Western women who were mingling. "Now my mother won't let me have guests staying over," he said. He was released and is awaiting trial.

Iran's crude oil exports are set to fall 7.5 percent in November to a four-month low, a source with knowledge of its preliminary tanker schedule said, as low seasonal demand in Europe takes the edge off its post-sanctions export bonanza. Iran's oil exports typically hit a low around October or November each year, reflecting peak refinery maintenance seasons in Europe and in Asia. Overall, OPEC's third-largest producer has been regaining market share at a faster pace than analysts had projected since sanctions were lifted in January, with its exports of crude and condensate hitting a five-year high of at least 2.60 million barrels per day (bpd) in September. Iran's sales of crude and ultra light oil condensate are set to fall for a second straight month to 2.37 million bpd in November from 2.56 million bdp in October, according to the source who is familiar with Iran's export situation. Compared with a year ago, Tehran's November crude exports are set to rise 118 percent, according to the source.


How Will the US Election Affect Middle East Policy? | UANI Advisory Board Member Dennis Ross in Majalla
The US election will be over soon. During every trip I have taken to the Middle East this year, I was asked not just about the election but also about whether the perceived hesitancy of the Obama administration to affect the balance of power in the region is likely to persist. Behind the question lurks the fear that American weariness with involvement in the Middle East is not unique to President Obama. That it, instead, reflects a deeper unease among the American public and whether it is simply inclined to retrench and avoid playing the continuing role of a superpower around the globe. After all, as I would be told by my Middle Eastern colleagues, candidates as different as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump seemed to be expressing what appeared to be isolationist themes. Indeed, the Trump slogan of "America First" harkened back to the 1930s. My answer would be that there was public wariness about involvement in Middle Eastern conflicts. How, I would ask, could there not be? America has been involved with asymmetric wars in the Middle East since 9/11 and its aftermath. And, they have not come out well: the costs have been high and the results have been poor. So there should be questioning by the public-and America's leaders should not be indifferent to those questions. On the contrary, they need to be able to address them, and where our interests require involvement explain why that is the case... The measure of the next administration is not whether it withdraws from the region, but whether it is prepared to compete in the area. Does it view Iranian adventurism in the region as a threat? Does it see the Iranian use of Shia militias as just as much of a threat to the state system in the Middle East as ISIS and al Qaeda represent? Does it believe that altering the balance of power against the interests of America's traditional partners in the Middle East also threatens US interests? And, does it see the emergence of vacuums in the region as a danger for America as well? None of this means that the next administration must carry the sole burden of dealing with threats in the broader Middle East-nor should it. But it does mean that it has to be prepared to contain Iran and seek to raise the costs to it of using Shia militias even as it counters radical Sunni Islamists-whether ISIS or al Qaeda. Here again there is an irony: the more willing the United States is to blunt what the Iranians are doing throughout the region, the more certain it will have regional partners not just for containing the Iranians but also for countering radical Salafis as well. Part of the Obama administration's problem in gaining more responsiveness from different Arab leaderships has been the impression-fairly or not-that it sees Iran as part of the solution to the regional challenges and not part of the problem. When the US is not perceived to understand the nature of the threats that most worry the leaders in the region, those leaders are not so ready to be responsive to the American lead or what the US is seeking. Moreover, they are more inclined to go their own way.

Eye on Iran is a periodic news summary from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) a program of the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Eye on Iran is not intended as a comprehensive media clips summary but rather a selection of media elements with discreet analysis in a PDA friendly format. For more information please email

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a non-partisan, broad-based coalition that is united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons.  UANI is an issue-based coalition in which each coalition member will have its own interests as well as the collective goal of advancing an Iran free of nuclear weapons.

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